Gary Oldman found the soul of Winston Churchill scratched into a chair. When he was preparing to play the former prime minister in his new film Darkest Hour, the 59-year-old actor took a private tour of the Cabinet War Rooms – the bunker 20ft beneath the Treasury in Whitehall, from which the Second World War was partly prosecuted.
On reaching the Cabinet Room itself, the guide held up the velvet rope and ushered Oldman forward to sit in Churchill’s seat. As he gripped its armrests, Oldman felt a crosshatch of notches under his fingertips – divots dug by Churchill’s own nails and signet ring into the varnished wood.
“There were deep scratches on the left where he had been doing this,” says Oldman, plucking nervously at the arm of his own chair in a London hotel the morning after Darkest Hour’s UK premiere. “And on the right hand side were all the scratches where he’d tap his ring. And that...
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